A College Degree... Now What? How Psychology Major Successfully Launched Career in Business

Psychology MajorBy Nicole Prunier

I graduated from college with a psychology degree. Psychology... it was a great major. Very interesting and I loved it but I still had no idea what I wanted to do. I started out thinking I would go into social work or teaching and even thought about forensic psychology. All seemed like interesting career options. At the last minute before graduation, however, I decided to change my path and go into business.

My father is the person who encouraged me to look into the business world. As an entrepreneur himself, he recognized some qualities in me that I did not even recognize in myself. He pointed out that I am competitive, have a mind of my own and that I have an entrepreneurial streak. I won’t say that I listened to his advice right away. Initially, I got defensive and thought he was not supportive of what I really wanted. After some reflection, however, I realized that he was simply trying to point me in a direction in which he believed I would both enjoy and realize success.

So, I started interviewing at consulting firms. My first interview experience was while I was still at George Washington University. A slew of consulting firms came onto campus to do on-campus interviews. I interviewed at 3 consulting firms. One of the companies had a 4 step interview process. I made it to the last interview and by the time I was done meeting with 4 people on the executive team, I could not wait to get out of the offices. I guess it was lucky that I did not want the job because I did not get it… Despite my lack of desire to work at this particular company, I was still disappointed. I moved on and went to another consulting firm. This time, I was “in it to win it”. I did not want to get rejected again. I was ready. I got hired. I accepted the position as a consultant. I hated it! I stuck it out for a little over a year. I realize now that I did not really think about what it would be like to work at this company. I took the job because it was offered to me. I applied to the company because it was on campus and convenient. I tried to get the job because I did not want to be rejected. I did not listen carefully to the job description. I did not contemplate whether this company or the position would be a good fit for me.

The Silver Lining

I do not regret my experience. I was afforded the opportunity for a practical education, hands-on experience and a better understanding of what I wanted out of my next career move. I learned that I was not good at computer code, that I did not like being behind a desk all day and that I did not like to travel long distances for work. I wanted to try something new. I had a connection at an advertising agency and ended up securing a job as a Media Planner.

The advertising world was interesting. I was able to build some great relationships. I attended lunches with the magazine and newspaper companies and met a lot of advertising sales reps. I learned about client relations and how to service clients well. Personally, I learned that I wanted some freedom in my life – independence that I soon realized would only come from working for myself. I also wanted to make a more meaningful impact on people. And finally, I wanted to have the potential to make an income that was commensurate with the effort I put into my work.

Fast forward to where I am now – The Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. I started as a Financial Representative and now am the Director of Career Development for the Portsmouth, NH office. In my 8 years at Northwestern I have worked harder than I have ever worked. I have had to learn a new business, experience intense training and high levels of accountability. I took a leap of faith and believed in myself and the company to start my own practice with Northwestern. I did this all because I knew I could have everything I wanted out of my career if I could endure the steep learning curve and take on the challenges of starting my own practice in the financial services world. I did not think I would find a career that would fulfill my desire for Impact, Income and Independence. I am very happy I took that leap of faith.

My Best Advice

Get an internship – a meaningful internship. Find an internship that will allow hand-on experience. Learn as much as you can while you are still in school. Learn about yourself – what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you enjoy and what you are willing to do to reach your goals and dreams. Getting an internship will also help you to build relationships. The company you intern with might want to hire you when you graduate or the people with whom you work might be willing to help you find another job.

100% effort. Always put your best effort in whatever work you do. Even if you are unhappy with your job choice or the situation, put forth your best effort. You can learn from every work experience and make a good impression on the people you work with.

Ask for help. It is okay to ask people you know to introduce you to others who can either steer you in the right direction or even get you an interview at the company of your dreams.

Be brave. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Have faith in yourself.

Nicole Prunier is an Associate Financial Representative and Director of Career Development for the Portsmouth, NH office of the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network (NMFN). NMFN is the marketing name for the sales and distribution arm of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI, and its subsidiaries. Nicole can be reached on LinkedIn .